WEST CHESTER — Chester County Sheriff Fredda Maddox on Monday vigorously defended her decision to take a position as police chief at Cheyney University last month, and insisted she could have performed both jobs to the fullest extent possible despite the demands of being on duty full-time at both the campus and the county Justice Center.

“I did not do anything illegal, immoral, or unethical,” Maddox said in a 20-minute telephone interview about her work as both sheriff and chief for the past four weeks, a dual position that ended with her resignation from the university position last week. “As long as I can do both (jobs), I saw no issues.”

Maddox noted that there is no prohibition against county row officers from holding outside employment and that in the past others before her had done so regularly without question.

“I don’t know why I am being singled out,” she said.

Her decision to work both jobs was called into question by, among others, the man who ran against her for the office. Former FBI agent Jim Fitzgerald said both he and Maddox ran for the office on the assumption that it would be a full-time job, even though the Third Class County Code does not specify how much time a county row office holder has to devote to his or her position. 

“My view when I ran for that position is that it would be a full-time job,” he said in an interview last week before Maddox’s resignation became public. “My expectation is that anyone else who had the job would treat it the same. I am distraught that this full-time job is not being given full-time attention. I mean, how can you be in two places at one time?”

Maddox — who was elected as the first Democratic county sheriff in modern county history in 2019, and its first Black officeholder — accepted the position as Chief of Campus and Public Safety and Fire Marshall with the university on Dec. 7. She said she had been working with Cheyney and Lincoln University, two historically Black universities in the county, on an ad hoc basis prior to that to build bridges between the law enforcement and young Black communities and saw the full-time chief’s job at Cheyney as a way to continue that effort.

She resigned her post at the school on Jan. 6 after getting questions from a reporter about her decision to pursue the chief’s job while continuing on as sheriff.

“I didn’t want to bring Cheyney into a mess of negative media,” she said, anticipating news stories detailing her dual positions, a rarity for Chester County sheriffs. “That is what I saw happening. Everything about this (story) has been a mess.” 

Maddox, 60, of Birmingham, has a long history of experience in law enforcement and the law, having served as a former Pennsylvania State Police trooper and member of the state Attorney General’s Office Drug Strike Task Force. She served in those positions from 1982 to 2000, while attending Widener University School of Law and passing the bar. Before wining election in 2019, she worked as an attorney in private practice in West Chester.

In the interview Monday, Maddox noted examples of how she intended to work both as a public safety officer and as sheriff. She recounted working a full overnight shift at Cheyney, a university in the county with more than 700 students and 275 acres of property in Chester and Delaware counties, changing out of her uniform clothes, and then arriving for work at the county Justice Center that morning, to show her ability to fulfill responsibilities at both jobs.,

“I know how to divide my time,” she said. “That’s not unusual for me. I have done that all my life. I always work more than 40 hours a week. I am a single woman and I live alone. I work all the time. It is normal for me. I know it sounds crazy, but it has always been my life.”

The sheriff said that she had become aware of the vacancy at Cheyney after working with the administration and students there as a way of easing tensions that broke out between young minorities and others and police in the wake of the George Floyd murder last year by a police officer in Minneapolis. She was offered the job at the end of November.

“I consider myself a bridge-builder,” she said. “After the George Floyd situation, there were a lot of conversations about how we are able to get more African-Americans to get involved with law enforcement. My idea was to partner with not only Cheyney, but also Lincoln, and also other organizations to see if maybe some of their criminal justice students might be interested in pursuing careers, and also seeing what I could do as the county sheriff to try to talk to Black and brown students and young people about law enforcement.

“I’ve had an ongoing dialog since this summer,” she said. The opening at Cheyney, she said, was “a great opportunity to make a difference and to change the culture.” The school, she said, allowed her great flexibility in how she would devote a full 40-hour or more work schedule while still maintaining her position as county sheriff.

To do that, Maddox said she took on mostly night duties at the school, and attended to her duties as sheriff during the day, at night, and on weekends. “Just because you don’t see me there, it doesn’t mean I’m not there.” 

The two positions, while both law enforcement agencies, have different missions and are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to their size and scope.

The Sheriff’s Office is responsible for a wide range of tasks, including security at the Chester County Justice Center and other county buildings; transport of prisoners to-and-from the Chester County Prison from the courthouse; issuance of gun permits; sales of tax delinquent properties; and service of warrants and court documents, both civil and criminal.

Although most, if not all of the deputies in the office, have police training and many have part-time jobs as municipal police officers, the office itself is not an investigative agency tackling crime and making arrests. Maddox, herself a veteran state police trooper and member of the state Attorney General’s Office, oversaw the office’s 92 full-time employees and $6.7 million budget — among the largest, if not the largest, law enforcement agencies in the county.

She, like other row officers, has a deputy on hand to run the day-to-day operations of the office, former Chief of County Detectives Kevin Dykes. The sheriff is paid an annual salary of $75,732.47, as set by the county commissioners.

On the other hand, the Cheyney Department of Public Safety employs only eight full-time officers to patrol the state-owned campus. The historically Black school’s 275-acre campus spanning two townships, one in Chester County and the other in Delaware County, and to protect its 700-or-so full- and part-time students.

According to the school’s website, university police are responsible for enforcing all federal, state and local laws, in addition to the rules and regulations of the university, they are also responsible for investigating all reports of criminal activity on campus, and coordinate with other law enforcement agencies as needed. A state website for employees listed Maddox’s salary as of Dec. 15 as $112,000.

“It is a 40-hour-a-week job with a lot of flexibility,” she said of the chief’s position, allowing her to work when the county offices are closed — acknowledging that even though the county courthouse is open only five days a week from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. a row officer’s job is not limited to those hours. “You are working a lot. Sometimes 'til seven at night, sometimes on a Sunday."

The fact that she could attend to campus during in the evening and at night means, “it would not conflict. The county is not open at that time. There is a lot f flexibility as a public official. There are no set hours for the sheriff. There was a lot of flexibility in that (Cheyney) position. It therefore was not a conflict. I could treat it as a full-time position, and then some."

Maddox insisted that she had good intentions for accepting the job at Cheyney, she acknowledged that she did not share the information about the position with her staff at the Sheriff’s Office, including the dozens of deputy sheriffs she commands.

“I got that job because I thought I could make a difference,” she said. “But as an elected official, what I do in my private time, which is not affecting the operations (of the Sheriff’s Office), it is no one’s business. If it is a disruption, perhaps (she would tell them.) But if I am working on a Saturday, or a Sunday, or if I’m working a four to midnight shift, no. I’ve been teaching, too, and I didn’t share that with them.”

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

To contact Staff Writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

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